Book Reviews


Lupica, Mike (author).
Nov. 2010. 256p. Philomel, hardcover, $17.99 (9780399252839). Grades 6-9.
REVIEW. First published October 1, 2010 (Booklist).

Lupica, best known for his popular sports novels for youth, explores new territory in this title, which begins with a highly skilled American agent’s first-person account of a dangerous solo mission in the Balkans. By the second chapter, though, readers learn that the agent died during his mission, and the story is picked up by a new narrator, who shifts the telling to third person and the focus to the agent’s son, Billy. After learning that he is being pursued by shadowy bad guys, Billy is ambushed in New York’s Central Park. Luckily, though, he has recently discovered that he possesses supernatural powers, and he overcomes his attackers. Lupica effectively unfolds this high-adventure story, which sends Billy on a classic hero’s journey with two possible guides, one of whom turns out to be treacherous. At the end, Lupica implies that it’s going to take more than one book to tell Billy’s story, which should please the inevitable new fans this effort will attract. Pair this with William Boniface’s The Hero Revealed (2006).

— Todd Morning

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Lupica, Mike.  Hero.  Philomel, 2010.  289p.
ISBN 978-0-399-25283-9 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys         Ad Gr. 6-8
Fourteen-year-old Billy had a sense that something terrible had happened, even before he officially found out that his dad had died in a plane crash. When Billy investigates how his ace pilot father went down, he discovers that his father was actually a risk-taking superhero, out of a family line of one-of-a-kind (there can only be a single one with activated powers at a time), supernormally gifted individuals who save the world daily in large and small ways. Now Billy is suddenly acquiring powers such as incredible speed, strength, and endurance, and without his father’s guidance, he isn’t sure who to trust, as everyone seems to have different, often contradictory advice for what he should do with his new superhero abilities. Billy’s everyday life, his prowess (developed through hard work) on the basketball court, his vulnerable friendship with a girl he secretly loves, and his ongoing struggles to figure out how to address bullying from a peer are effectively, carefully developed, resulting in an amiable and memorable protagonist seeking a way to navigate adolescence. Unfortunately, the convoluted plot twists dealing with differentiating bad guys from good guys and the fact that no one is really either distract from Billy himself. In addition, there is a flatness to the dialogue that results in most conversations becoming awkward, exposition-laden breaks that interrupt the otherwise rapid pace. Nevertheless, comic fans may still find plenty to enjoy in this tale of a teen suddenly charged with saving the world, and sports fans will be particularly taken with the vivid basketball scenes.  AS

Horn Book Guide:
Lupica, Mike Hero
   289 pp. Philomel 2010. ISBN 978-0-399-25283-9
(3) 4-6
Zach is devastated to learn that his father, an advisor to the president, has been killed in a plane crash. Holding out hope that Dad isn’t really dead, Zach visits the crash site. He runs into a mysterious old man–and finds out about his own superpowers. Lupica has crafted a tight, suspenseful superhero adventure; a sequel seems likely.


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